Monday, February 7, 2011

Ernesto Garcia Cabral El Chango (The Monkey): Trickster of Golden Age Mexican Cinema Poster Artists

Ernesto García Cabral was born on December 18, 1890 in Huatusco, Veracruz,  the son of Vincent and Aurelia García Cabral, a working class family.  His artistic ability was already evident in elementary school as he sketched landscapes, faces, figures of people, animals and plants in his notebook.  His abilities were well developed and he was given the task of teaching drawing to other students by age 12.  He applied to his state's governor's office for a scholarship in 1906, and was accepted to study in Mexico City at the Academy of Painting and Sculpture in San Carlos.  Cabral studied for two years at the famous school where he received instruction from artists Gedovius Germain, Daniel del Valle, Carlos Lazo, Servin and Roberto Montenegro.

His charactaristicly exaggerated style for which he is now so well-known was developing in his academic work.  It was during this time that Cabral's caricatures in political cartoons got him in some trouble for satirizing Mexican president Frandisco Madero.  It is believed to be the reason why he left Mexico for Paris after 1912 on a scholarship to study art on the continent.

Cabral stayed in Paris and worked through the end of his stipend, continuing in reduced if not starving circumstances.  But the opportunity was formative because he mingled with important artists such as Diego Rivera, Roberto Montenegro, Angel Zarraga and Fidas Flizondo.  In 1914, at the beginning of the First World War, Cabral moved to Madrid, where he received another stipend from the Mexican Government to work in Buenos Aires, Argentina from 1915 to 1918.  In Argentina, Cabral's newspaper and magazine illustrations started to resemble the style for which he is recognized.

Back in Mexico City by 1919, Cabral worked through the 1920s and 30s as a famed caricaturist and cartoonist illustrating the covers of major magazines and drawing satirical cartoons in the Excelsior newspaper.  He was known to his friends in this period as El Chango (the monkey), because of his looks and his alleged tree-climbing abilities.  Cabral had also become president of the National Union of Cartoonists, and painted for the Museum of Tourism in Toluca, Mexico, a mural titled Spiritual History of the Valley of Mexico in 1943.  Cabral was friends with notable contemporary artists, journalists, intellectuals and important personalities such as Agustin Lara, Maria Felix, Cantinflas, Pedro Vargas, Alfonso Reyes, Salvador Novo, Juan José Arreola, José Juan Tablada, Carlos Arruza, and Walt Disney.

Connoisseurs and graphic art specialists believe that the art of Cabral is important as a model for a new generation of cartoonists.  His influences were the works of Arias Bernal, Paolo Garretto, and Norman Rockwell.  He is best remembered to collectors as the artist who made the most memorable cartoon-style genre film posters of the Mexican Golden Age of Cinema featuring his caricatures of comedy great Cantiflas or Tin Tan.  Cabral died in Mexico City in August 1968 at age seventy-seven.

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